COCKLERS have rounded on a sea fisheries regulator for threatening the industry by announcing that low stocked cockle beds would reopen when an access point became safe.

The North West and North Wales Seas Fisheries Committee announced this week that it would be delaying the opening of cockle beds at Flookburgh until the only suitable access point at West Plains Farm was deemed safe to use.

The beds were due to reopen on December 9 to the dismay of local cocklers but, following discussions with the Health and Safety Executive and English Nature, this has been temporarily abandoned.

No date has been fixed for the reopening although the NWNWSFC says it is keeping a weekly watching brief on the shifting river channels that have blocked the access point and created serious concerns for safety.

Although cocklers have welcomed the delay they believe it has been imposed for the wrong reason.

The Westmorland Gazette reported last week that cocklers believed the beds had not had enough time to replenish themselves since a ban on fishing the lucrative shellfish was imposed in April after a scientific survey showed adult and juvenile stocks were dangerously low.

The committee says it is also seeking to open beds at Fleetwood as soon as possible.

The announcement comes days after a meeting between Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron and Inspector Richard Vernon from Ulverston, who is Cumbria police's voice on cockling issues.

Mr Farron has written a letter to the NWNWSFC calling for a six-month delay, citing low stocks of cockles and the lack of a suitable access point as the main reasons.

See The Westmorland Gazette or our News - Cockling section for more.